Does Clint Frazier have a chance to claim LF from Gardner?

Clint Frazier burst onto the scene in his Major League debut on July 1st, 2017, going 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. From that moment on, Yankee fans could tell the red-haired, 22-year-old had the potential to be something special.
Photo Credit: Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports
Fast forward to the following spring training, where Frazier was eyeing the possibility of making the major league roster. The second game in, the young prospect suffered a concussion, which he would soon find out was the beginning of what seemed like a never ending nightmare of a season for Frazier. He never really did recover from the dreadful injury, which limited him to a mere 15 games in the majors.

He made his season debut on April 26th with High-A Tampa, eventually getting back up to Triple-A, and then the majors. Unfortunately,  Frazier was placed back in the concussion protocol, followed by the disabled list in the minor leagues after he felt concussion symptoms in mid-July. This would lead to him to missing all but two games between the minors and majors the rest of the 2018 season.

Now here we are, almost exactly a year later. The 24-year-old is going into the 2019 season fully healthy, determined to claim the starting left field job for the New York Yankees. Frazier is a career .238 hitter as a big leaguer with four homers, 18 RBI and a .724 OPS in 168 at-bats over the previous two seasons. In his brief 48 game stint in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this past season, he hit .311, slugged 10 homers and had an impressive OPS of .963. The Yankees know what kind of player Frazier is capable of being, it is just whether or not he performs up to his potential.

There’s only one person standing in the way of his goal: 35-year-old veteran Brett Gardner. The team resigned Gardner to a one-year, $7.5 million contract in October. The longest-tenured Yankee is well respected by everyone in the organization, most likely part of the reason why they brought him back for one more season. The already crowded outfield now consists of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton, who will most likely be spending a majority of his time at designated hitter. 
Photo Credit: Adam Hunger
Because the team has brought Gardner back for $7.5M, it seems like they see him as at least having a leg up on the starting left field job. This has been his job for the past nine seasons, so it is definitely his position to lose. It would not make sense for the Yankees to pay that much money for Gardner to return as a backup outfielder. Gardner is going into his age 35 season, and usually players are unable to improve drastically at this point in their careers. 

Posting only a 2.8 WAR and 86 OPS+ last season, it is doubtful that he will bounce back and have a season like he had a few years ago. Although Gardy had an off year this past season, batting .232 and slugging only .368, he can still be an important bat in the lineup for the team. All he has to do is be the consistent hitter that he is and show the Yankees that he still be an above-average left fielder.  He is known to constantly work pitch counts and you can always depend on him to have a good at-bat, no matter the end result.

For Frazier on the other hand, it is going to be much more difficult to win the job. He has to have to have an outstanding spring and really show improvement as a player overall. As yet another right-handed bat in a lineup that desperately needs left-handed hitters, Frazier is going to have to blow the coaching staff away in order to win the starting job over Gardner.

At the conclusion of spring training, I would be shocked to see Aaron Boone name Clint Frazier the starter. At least for the beginning of the season, Gardner is going to have that job. Frazier will have to wait at least one more season until he can claim the starting left field position as his own.

Article by: Bobby Jenkins


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